Jeff Clark was working late in the back of his store one December night when he heard a thump at the other end of the building.
Shards of glass rained onto the floor as the outer pane on his double-paned door broke. The would-be burglar was trying to kick in the second pane of glass when he heard Clark’s footsteps and ran away.
The incident shook Clark’s faith in his alarm system. Even though he was locked into a two-year security contract, he started shopping for another security system.
Shopping for a new alarm system was more complicated for Clark than it would have been for other business owners. That’s because Clark owns a medical marijuana dispensary — Top Shelf Collective, at 2119 Lincoln St., in Bellingham.
Not all security companies work with the marijuana industry. In a 2013 article on CNNMoney.com, ADT, one of the nation’s largest security providers said it won’t sell security services to marijuana businesses because it is still illegal under federal law.
Justin West, owner of Cascade Herb Company, a recreational cannabis shop at 1240 E. Maple St., said he was refused service by one local security company. Most of the larger franchises wouldn’t work with Ken Linse, owner of Green Leaf, when he opened his recreational marijuana store at 4220 Guide Meridian, he said.
Clark thinks some security companies don’t like to work with marijuana businesses for several reasons: either they are morally or politically opposed to marijuana or they think the businesses are dangerous to insure.
“There are much more vulnerable places than a marijuana store,” Clark said. “Now, are you going to get some young kids that are stupid and thinking, hey there’s lots of weed and cash in there? Yes, but I don’t think it’s any more prone to thieves than any other business.”
At Clark’s store, a potential thief would have to make it through several dead-bolted doors before getting to the safe, which is bolted to the floor. He set his store up Top Shelf Collectiver to be compliant with laws for recreational marijuana stores, which require motion detectors and other alarms on all doors and windows and video cameras throughout the store.
The number of alarm companies that don’t offer service to marijuana businesses created an opportunity for Bethany Brediger, security agent for Sonitrol Pacific, a Sonitrol franchise based in Everett. She has clients in Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties.
“Right now with all the producer/processors that are opening up, it is a significant part of my business,” Brediger said. “It’s probably at least half my business right now.”
Her business has grown mostly through word-of-mouth referrals. Clark called her after the attempted break-in, and he isn’t the first customer who contacted her after having an incident with a different security provider, she said.
“Once I signed up I let people I know in the business that this is a company where you don’t have to wonder whether they’re going to work with you,” Clark said. “I immediately spread the word.”
Brediger’s other top clients include schools and churches, she said. For her, the only difference in working with the marijuana industry is that sometimes they have tight deadlines for passing government inspections.
In addition to cameras, Brediger’s security systems use audio equipment. When the system detects abnormal noises or volume, it notifies people at Sonitrol’s verification center, who listen in to determine if the noise is from a burglary attempt.
She said Sonitrol’s systems have allowed police to apprehend thieves who cut through a roof to get into a business.
Brediger isn’t concerned with working with the marijuana industry, she said. She provides security to both medical and recreational shops, as well as marijuana growers.
“For any legal business that needs security, I’m in favor of giving them the best security out there and treating them with the same respect we treat all of our customers with,” Brediger said. “It’s not our job to take a political stance.”